The Union County Rugby Football Club Mudturtles have been in existence since 1974, but prior to 2015, there was not a team for women.
That all changed last year when Anna Gildea, a law student at Seton Hall University, needed a team to play for after a four-year career at Fordham.
With commuting to play in New York City an inconvenient option, she got creative.
Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation, and it is difficult for women to find a local team to play for if their university does not offer the sport.
That is exactly why the Union County Women’s Rugby Club was formed, according to Gildea.
“So many girls that play for us have expressed that they had tried to play for other teams but it was just too far, and obviously as a recreational thing you aren’t going to let it take over your work and school life so you have to make sacrifices,” she said.
“So, so many people are happy they have somewhere to go that’s within a reasonable striking dis- tance”
The Union County Women’s Rugby Club has grown from an initial meeting consisting of 10 players to about 30 active players, including Seton Hall students Tatiana Oliveira, Corina Hendren,
Fethnat Ni Shuileabhain and staff member Jennifer Wade, all of whom have never played rugby prior to joining the Mudturtles.
The team is looking to grow and encourages those who have no prior experience to give the sport a try.
They emphasize that rugby is a sport for all body types and skill sets.
“We will welcome you with open arms,” Oliveira said. “Even if you’ve never played, even if you have two left feet, literally. That’s fine.”
There are more benefits than the opportunity to stay in shape. A sentiment reiterated by everyone is that this is more than just a team.
It’s a family.
“We all live very different lives – go to different schools, work in different fields, and have different beliefs,” Wade said.
“But every practice and every game we come together as one team and one family. Nothing else matters. If you have ever thought about rugby…just do it. You won’t regret it”
The team typically practices Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at New Providence High School or Unami Park. There are five games on the schedule, which begins March 19.
The only cost to play is $40, and that covers the entire season. There is no deadline to join. For more information go to mudturtlerfc.com.
Matt Zeigafuse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. edu or on twitter @mattzeigafuse.